We're going back a ways in this tutorial to a Photoshop filter introduced quite some time agoPaint Alchemy from Xaos Tools. Great little filter for doing a broad range of projects way beyond what you can accomplish with Photoshop's built-in plugins and addressing the needs of a different audience from what the likes of Kai's Power Tools addresses. We'll focus in this tutorial on Paint Alchemy's Unrestored Oil Painting settings to try to get an antiqued look on a photographnot just for an old photo effect, but for an old painting effect.
I've chosen as my subject one Messr. Bill Gates. You may have heard of him. I've selected him for no other reason than he happens to be in my mind of late as my Power Mac G4 does battle with his Proxy Server 2.0 in the office. (Yes, we have an NT server. It was there before I started. The proxy server is a recent addition thrown in to give the PC guys in the office some comic relief and to keep those Microsoft tech guys in business.)
The simple solution to antiquing an image is simply to use Paint Alchemy's default setting. But that doesn't give you an oil painting feel. It gives you the feel of a photograph that's been splattered with oil paint. On an actual scanned painting, the default setting looks great. But for a photograph of a person, we're going to have to do a little extra work.
We're going to add a few extra steps to the process. They don't take as long as, say, painting a portrait in oil and waiting for the natural antiquing process, but they do take time. I think this whole project takes about two hours to complete.
Now, you'll recall that the whole purpose of this effort was to impose a painterly feel on the photograph. No matter what filter you apply to the whole image, that's just not going to happen. You need to go in and take out some photographic details that you wouldn't find in an antique oil painting.
For me, this means simplifying the hair, getting rid of some highlights and smoothing out the fabric in the shirt. For the hair, I lassoed the general area and applied Palette Knife (stroke 3, detail 3, softness 4) and then added Accented Edges (edge width 1, brightness 36, smoothness 1). For the details in the face, I used the rubber stamp tool and the airbrush. This helped eliminate some of the studio lighting and reduce the photorealism of the image.
For the shirt, my unlikely choice was Plastic Wrap, which, when toned down, can give a more silky texture to the fabric (highlight 3, detail 15, smooth 7). Remember that you don't want to go crazy in reducing the photorealism of the image.
Adding painterly elements
For the background itself, I used Clouds and then applied a Flood Light effect. Keep in mind that whenever you use Paint Alchemy, the color of the background it critical because it usually sucks up colors from the image itself to create its effects. For my background, I selected a purplish violet and then applied Clouds (from the Render submenu).
As a last step before the final Paint Alchemy filter, I wanted to kill some more of the detail, so I flattened the image and applied Accented Edges to the entire picture (width 1, brightness 21, smoothness 1). That really helped to get rid of some of the photographic detail in the glasses and around the mouth and cheeks.
All these steps having been accomplished, I was ready to apply Unrestored Oil Painting to the image. One problem: I didn't like the way it looked. So I changed some of the default settingsactually all of the default settingsand wound up with an image I can actually enjoy looking at before yelling curses at it.
The actual Paint Alchemy settings I used are pretty complicated, but here they are.
And here's the result. The image on the left is the original. The image in the middle uses Paint Alchemy applied on the original image. The image on the right includes all the steps detailed above with the exact same Paint Alchemy settings as the middle image. The result is a picture that comes pretty close to capturing the feel of an old oil painting.
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